Veera Puran Appu - 158th death anniversary - the Road in Colombo 7 to be re-named as "Veera Puran Appu Mawatha"
Veera Puran Appu alias Francesco Fernando belongs to both history and legend. He is the only personality to emerge from Sri Lanka's history, clad in the garb of folk hero. Folk, since he rose from among the common people of this land. And hero, since he dared to challenge the might of British Imperialism at its peak of power and glory during the Victorian era.
158 years ago on the 8th of August 1848 Puran Appu was executed for his role in the rebellion against the British in Kandy.
Puran Appu was born as Francesco Fernando in Moratuwa. At the age of 12 having had to fight with the local authorities he fled his home town. His adventures led him to Ratnapura, Haldemulla, Badulla and Mahiyangana. And at the age of 33 years he arrived in the Kandyan area. There he met and married Bandara Menike, daughter of Gunnapana Arachchi.
It is remarkable that as a newcomer to the Kandyan areas he was able to catch the imagination of the people and rise to be one of their principal leaders.
Because of a depression in coffee prices a grave injustice was committed by the imposition for the first time of direct taxation on the people. This was executed by Lord Torrington, Governor, cousin of Queen Victoria who had been hand picked for the job. These taxes bore heavily on both the purse and the traditions of the people.
The people were without a King who had been exiled in 1815. They were without their traditional leaders who had been eliminated in the 1818 rebellion.
In 1848 necessity drove them to turn to people like Puran Appu who had earned a reputation for courage and daring. They called him Puran Appu probably, Puran being short for Francesco and Appo being an honorific term.
Puran Appu was successful in capturing Matale for a while.
But the superior forces of the British supplemented by forces brought from India via Trincomalee overpowered him.
No better tribute has been paid to him than by Lord Torrington himself. In a letter to the Colonial Office the original of which is at Durham University he says: "I remind you of the last words of Puran Appu the hour before he was shot. He was a brave man. He held up his hand and said (If there had been half a dozen such men as me to lead there would not have been a white man living in the Kandyan province). This is true. They wanted leaders. If they had success at the start leaders would have joined and without doubt for a time we should have lost the country."
Veera Puran Appu belongs to a long line of illustrious personalities who stood up against the Foreign Flag, and contributed to our struggle for National Freedom. He was the leader of the only popular uprising against foreign domination of our country - the Rebellion of 1848 - the year which stands out even in world history as the year of Revolutions.
Veera Puran Appu lived and died a National Hero.
In the name of Veera Puran Appu, the name of the Torrington Avenue in Colombo 7, close to SLBC and Rupawahini Corporation should be named as "Veera Puaran Appu Mawatha"